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Risk caused by high blood pressure

Posted: 12 February 2013 by Rob Dabrowski

Women who have a single episode of high blood pressure while pregnant are more likely to die of a heart attack in later life, it is claimed.

Blood pressure monitor
The claim comes from US researchers who state that a single instance makes it up to five times more likely.

The results of their study show they are also at an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes later in life.

Dr Tuija Mannisto, a postdoctoral fellow at the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is lead author of the research paper.

‘All of the later-life risks were similar in pregnant women who could otherwise be considered low-risk - those who were young, normal weight, nonsmokers, with no diabetes during pregnancy,’ he said.

‘According to our findings, women who have had high blood pressure during pregnancy, or who are diagnosed with high blood pressure in pregnancy for the first time, might benefit from comprehensive heart disease risk factor checks by their physicians, to decrease their long-term risk of heart diseases.’

The study included Finnish women who had babies in 1966 and were followed for 40 years.

One-third of the women had at least one high blood pressure reading during pregnancy.

These women were 14% to 100% more likely to develop heart disease later in life than those with normal blood pressure throughout their pregnancy.

Women with any high blood pressure during pregnancy also had a two to five times increased risk of dying from a heart attack and a 1.4 to 2.2 times higher risk of developing diabetes.

The study also found that women with high blood pressure during pregnancy but normal blood pressure after pregnancy still had a 1.6 to 2.5 times greater risk of having high blood pressure requiring medication or hospitalisation later in life.

The authors of the paper, which has been published in the journal Circulation, have said future research should explore whether lifestyle changes and post-pregnancy follow-up could change these women's long-term health.